Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: The Daniel Fast

The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory is a good book. Gregory encourages her readers to feed their souls, strengthen their spirits, and renew their bodies by being extremely disciplined about what they eat for a designated period of time and by praying and studying their Bibles, too. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a good thing to do. Gregory even provides recipes and devotionals to help her readers along the way. In fact, these take up most of the book. Gregory closes with a question and answer section for further clarification of her idea. And it is a good idea.

But it isn’t a fast.

And the Bible passage that it is based on wasn’t about a fast.

Scot McKnight, author of Fasting, defines fasting as “the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life.” He says “The focus in the Christian tradition is not ‘if you fast you will get,’ but ‘when this happens, God’s people fast.’ Fasting is a response to a very serious situation, not an act that gets us from a good level to a better level” (pp. xix-xx).

In other words, we don’t fast because we want something from God—even a good thing like spiritual growth or a deeper relationship with Him. We fast because God calls us to it through the circumstances of life. If something good comes of the experience, that is a bonus for us.

In the first chapter of Daniel, he and his friends request a special diet. They do not make this request in order to fast or grow spiritually or even to become healthy, though. They do so out of obedience to God. The king has ordered them to eat food that has been sacrificed to idols. This will violate God’s law. They choose to obey God, and He honors their decision by making them healthier than anyone else in the king’s training program.

This is no different from Daniel’s choice to pray, though it landed him in the lion’s den, or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s choice to not bow to an idol, though it landed them in the fiery furnace. In all three situations, the men chose to obey God, and God blessed their decision in return.

If you choose to follow Gregory’s Daniel Fast because you long to grow closer to God, I have no doubt He’ll honor that decision. He loves it when we devote ourselves to Him in disciplined and concentrated ways. But you won’t be fasting. You’ll be disciplining yourself to eat healthy foods, pray, and study God’s Word. The experience will be good for you.

Thank you, Tyndale House Publishers, for sending this book for my honest review.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review: The Accidental Bride

Denise Hunter’s sequel to A Cowboy’s Touch is brilliant! As I had hoped, hoped, hoped it would, it tells the story of Shay, single mom to Olivia. (Now I’m just watching for Dylan’s story!)

In The Accidental Bride, Shay is struggling to keep the family farm. Once left on the courthouse steps on the way to elope and later abandoned by a husband, Shay is fiercely independent and determined to keep all men out of her life. Until she accidentally marries the one who left her on the courthouse steps.

I won’t give away the comedy of errors that made this marriage possible, but Shay doesn’t find them funny at all. Travis, her new husband, however, sees his opportunity to convince her he’s changed, matured, and learned his lesson. Not marrying her was the biggest mistake of his life. Using her tenuous farm situation, complicated by an accident that leaves her unable to care for the farm alone, Travis promises to help if Shay won’t annul the marriage for at least five months.

Themes in the story include learning to please God rather than people and remembering to take life’s problems to God first, seeking His help and will in order to make things right. I loved the story and the subtle lessons it contained. I recommend this book.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy for my honest review.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Review: To Be Perfectly Honest

If you like to laugh and appreciate a light-hearted approach to a deep subject, read To Be Perfectly Honest by Phil Callaway. I really enjoyed this book!

At his publisher’s insistence, Callaway made a vow to tell the truth for a whole year. He kept a journal of his experiences—challenges, insights, and failures—and used it to write this book.

Callaway wasn’t very good at telling the truth.

But he was completely honest about this throughout the book. At least, I think he was. It looks that way.

And Callaway learned a lot from this experiment. I was thankful he shared his insights with his readers. I especially liked his Honest Confessions at the end of each chapter.

Callaway’s e-mail conversations with people who challenge him to confess things, Ruth Madoff, and the post-Rapture pet care atheist are hysterical. His on-going ministry to Mormon missionaries and frustrations with humanity’s quirks are entertaining, too.

Mostly, though, I liked the way Callaway related to the people around him, patiently bearing with their imperfections, honestly confessing his, learning not to judge too quickly or too harshly, and ultimately wanting God’s best for everyone.

The book is subtly thought-provoking, and I had fun reading it. I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for my truly honest review. To quote the cover, “One man’s year of almost living truthfully could change your life. No lie.”